Staying up for the homeless

(Photo by Etatau)
Last year’s event. (Photo by Etatau)

By Jarad Nelson
Sigma Pi’s annual Sleep Out for the Homeless started last night on Thursday Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. on the main quad here on campus and ended this Friday Nov. 14 at 7 a.m. The cause was to help raise awareness for homelessness.
“At the sleep out, we take over the quad and try to raise awareness and money for a local homeless shelter” said Matthew Ramsden, a senior at Fitchburg State and philanthropy and ACE (Altruistic Campus Experience) chairman for Sigma Pi.
The first Sleep Out for the Homeless Event “started in the fall semester of 1992, I believe we borrowed it from our chapter at Bridgewater State” said Ramsden, “At the sleep out, we get a whole bunch of cardboard boxes and build forts and have a great time. We get a whole bunch of support from other organizations who usually spend the majority of the night with us.”
If you plan on spending the whole night you will want to go prepared with warm clothing and maybe even some blankets. “We do get a good number of people out there with us, but as the night goes on and it gets progressively colder, the numbers start to dwindle,” said Ramsden, “There are always people who stay the whole night though.”
It is a free event that anyone can participate in, but they do try to raise donations. “It is mostly an event to raise awareness but if we can give the shelter something, it is always helpful” said Ramsden.
All proceeds raised by the event go to Our Father’s House, a homeless shelter in Fitchburg, Our Father’s House is a non-profit organization, formed in 1983. It provides case management services to homeless men, women, and children. They are a non-sectarian organization, but are “rooted in Judeo Christian values – which means every man, woman and child, is created equal and should be treated that way” says their website
The program is partially funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development, but they are able to keep the service running because of their fundraising efforts. “The bulk of our share of costs is paid through an Annual Fund Drive, conducted by the Board of Directors, each September” the organization says.
The organization has an emergency shelter in Fitchburg as well as transitional housing for men in recovery and women in recovery, both located in Fitchburg, as well as transitional housing for families located in Devens and throughout Fitchburg and Leominster. According to their website, “This program is designed to reduce the recidivism rate (guests returning to the shelter). In its first year of operating, OFH had reduced the instance of guests returning from 50 percent to 10 percent. This success is due to the more intense services — involving the guests in the operation of the program from food shopping, to menu planning, cleaning the facility and a very high emphasis on addressing underlying problems contributing to their homelessness.”
The organization says that last year they “provided shelter and transitional housing to approximately a combined total of 950 individuals and families.”